Group Blasts Proposed Smoking Ban in Hudson River Park

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    The Hudson River Park Trust has proposed banning smoking in its five-mile riverfront park on Manhattan's west side, prompting a letter from a smoking rights group lawyer saying the trust lacks legal authority.

    The trust, a public benefit corporation, this month proposed the ban to remain consistent with the city-owned parks dating to May 2011.

    "At this time, Hudson River Park is one of a handful of parks located in the city that continues to allow smoking," the trust said in its proposal. "As such, the park may provide an incentive to smokers from around the city to come to smoke here and, in the process, increase litter, diminish the enjoyment of others and increase the health risks of park patrons."

    The trust said it has the authority under the 1998 state law granting it the right to adopt rules to protect the public. Existing rules, for example, prohibit littering, swimming nude, bringing in weapons or leaving dog waste. Alcohol is permitted only in designated areas. It said the smoking ban also is consistent with 470 U.S. municipalities, including parks in San Francisco and Albuquerque.

    The lawyer for the nonprofit NYC CLASH objected to the change in a letter to the trust this week. The group has a pending lawsuit against state officials to stop outdoor smoking bans in state parks.

    The trust "has incorrectly decided" it has the prerogative to create its own smoking rules without legislative authorization, attorney Edward Paltzik wrote. "The state Legislature has repeatedly declined to prohibit or restrict outdoor smoking."

    The smoking ban in the city-owned parks was approved by the City Council.

    The trust did not immediately reply to requests for comment Wednesday.

    The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has kept signs up at beaches and other areas where it says smoking is prohibited. Spokesman Dan Keefe said Wednesday the office isn't currently issuing tickets for violations.

    "We have certain areas, beaches, outdoor eating areas, playgrounds, where we have signs saying no smoking. They've been up all summer," Keefe said. "Smoking is prohibited in those areas."

    The state agency operates 178 parks and 35 historic sites.

    Audrey Silk, founder of New York City Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment, questioned the timing of the proposal with the lawsuit pending and state parks Commissioner Rose Harvey on the trust's board.

    "Should their response be unfavorable, we're prepared to add them to our lawsuit," she said.

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